30 Aug 2018

Labour MP stands down amid assault allegation

10:01 pm on 30 August 2018

Labour MP Meka Whaitiri is being investigated over claims she physically assaulted a staff member in her ministerial office, RNZ has learned.

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Labour MP Meka Whaitiri is facing a Ministerial Services inquiry. Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern this afternoon announced Ms Whaitiri would stand aside as a minister pending an investigation into "a staffing matter".

RNZ has been told the Ministerial Services inquiry relates to an allegation of assaulting a person who had recently joined the office.

It is understood the staff member left work early on Wednesday.

Sources have told RNZ that Ms Whaitiri was difficult to work with and pointed to a high staff turnover in her office.

In a statement, Ms Ardern said she was advised of a staffing matter, which she did not disclose details of, on Wednesday night.

"Meka Whaitiri has told me she will be fully cooperating with the investigation, which will be thorough and conducted as quickly as possible," Ms Ardern's statement read.

It stated that Ms Ardern and Ms Whaitiri will not comment further on the matter while the investigation was underway, due to privacy concerns.

Ms Whaitiri was the Customs Minister and held associate responsibility in the areas of Agriculture, Forestry, Local Government and Crown/Māori Relations.

Commerce Minister Kris Faafoi will take over as Acting Minister of Customs while the matter is being investigated. Ms Whaitiri's associate responsibilities will revert to the lead ministers.

Ms Whaitiri is the second Labour government minister to fall from grace in less than a week, after Clare Curran was demoted from Cabinet and lost two portfolios on Friday.

Ms Curran failed to properly declare a meeting for a second time.